The last decade hasn’t been particularly kind to comedy movies. Of the Top 50 highest-grossing comedies of all time, just seven of them were released in the last 10 years. Compare that to the Top 50 highest-grossing films in general, of which 35, or 80%, came out in 2013 or later.
“Barbie” could soon be the first non-sequel, non-superhero comedy to finish first at the box office the year of its premiere since “Finding Nemo” in 2003. Until very recently, the consensus has been that comedy just doesn’t bring people into theaters anymore — unless it’s being delivered by costumed superheroes in between explosive action scenes.
“Barbie” isn’t a typical comedy by any means, with its success dependent on a huge ensemble cast and a globally recognized brand. But should studios still take the movie’s success as a sign that the world needs more comedies? We’re using Ranker Insights to find out if there’s still a big audience for comedy movies — or if that audience has turned to action and superhero fare for its entertainment.
To get a sense of today’s comedy film audience, we wanted to see if fans of the most popular comedies of all time were likely to enjoy recent comedy movies as well as the classics.
To do that, we used Ranker Insights. People come to Ranker, the #1 source of crowdsourced rankings on the internet, to voice their opinions on their favorite movies, TV shows, celebrities, and more. Ranker Insights uses this data to find “affinities,” which are calculated based on Ranker visitors who have voted on two different items: when enough people vote the same way about both items, they develop an Affinity.
So we looked at the number of movies made after 2010 that had an affinity with the highest-ranked films on our list of The 600+ Funniest Movies Of All Time (1.2 million votes).
At first, the results weren’t promising for the future of comedy movies. “Blazing Saddles” (1974), currently ranked #1 on our list of the funniest movies, has significant affinities with plenty of comedy movies, but none of them were made after 2010. In fact, those who love “Blazing Saddles” are actually five times more likely to dislike the recent hit comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018), and are a little under two times more likely to dislike “21 Jump Street” (2014) or “Step Brothers.”
The results were only slightly better for the next movies we looked at. Just 20% of the post-2010 movies that have an affinity with “Airplane!” (1980) are comedies. Meanwhile, both “Caddyshack” (1980) and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) had affinities with about as many recent superhero movies as they did with comedy movies.
When it comes to contemporary films, these audiences aren’t any more inclined to see a new comedy than they are the latest entry from the Marvel or DC cinematic universes.
But for the #5 ranked movie on the list, “Superbad” (2007), the numbers started to shift. Of the movies made in the 2010s or later that have an affinity with “Superbad,” 60% are comedies, while for the #6 ranked movie, “Stepbrothers” (2008), 59% of its recent affinities were comedies.
That led us to posit a new theory. Could it be that, while fans of “classic” comedies have turned away from the genre in recent years, fans of newer comedy movies still come to theaters looking for laughs?
To test the theory, we looked at our list of The Best Comedy Movies Of The 2010s (18K votes). The list itself shows the extent to which superhero flicks have taken over the genres, with three of the Top 5 movies belonging to the MCU. But a look at the non-superhero movies on the list supports our theory: 60% of the post-2010 movies that have an affinity with “Ted” (2011) are comedies, while just 18% are superhero films. Comedy movies make up a similar percentage of “The Other Guys’” (2010) post-2010 affinities, but superhero movies have a tiny 6% share.
The closer we get to the present, the more pronounced this trend becomes. Films produced after 2010 dominate the affinities with “Crazy Rich Asians” and 71% of those movies are comedies. Just one of them, “Black Panther” (2018), is a superhero movie. Both “Booksmart” (2019) and “Girls Trip” (2017) have affinities almost exclusively with other comedies. Despite the fact that these three movies are vastly different, they’ve all attracted audiences that are all but singularly focused on the comedy genre.
“Barbie,” for its part, has a stronger affinity with “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” than any other movie. That’s the predicament in which the Hollywood comedy movie finds itself today. Movies like “Booksmart” and “Crazy Rich Asians” were big successes, but drawing the kind of monumental record box office revenue “Barbie” pulled usually means reaching different audiences, who typically only visit the box office to see thrilling, high-budget adventures.
That said, as Marvel’s dominance of the film industry begins to wane, producers will likely start looking for alternatives to draw in moviegoers. Our findings suggest that if they choose to produce great comedy films, there’s still an audience more than willing to pay the price of admission.
Ryan Mach is a content marketing manager at Ranker, a WrapPRO partner. Visit Ranker Insights for more unique information about any audience or to contact us for more information.
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